ASHLAND – After one year as a virtual presentation, the third annual Hometown Heroes program will be back in-person this spring.
Ashland-Greenwood High School Resource Teacher Stacy Johnson said they have not determined the exact date of the ceremony, but she knows it will be as back-to-normal as possible, given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we should be able to do an actual one,” she said.
The first Hometown Heroes program was held in 2019. Johnson started the project with her senior transition students as a way to recognize everyday heroes in the communities that make up the Ashland-Greenwood school district. She initially came up with the idea while working at another school district and brought it with her when she came to AGHS.
While the “heroes” are the winners, there are benefits for Johnson’s students as well. Often children are the recipients of good deeds, but this gives them a chance to learn about giving back.
“Actually to have them be on the giving side rather than the receiving side, I think that’s important,” Johnson said.
They also get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes life of a person who volunteers their time and effort for others.
“We’re helping them see there’s a lot of people who are doing a lot of things for the community,” said Johnson.
In addition, the students are involved in the Hometown Heroes project from the very beginning.
Johnson said they start out by making flyers to advertise the program and solicit nominations. This year, student Tahler Sulzbach drew a new logo for the flyers.
Once the flyers have been designed and printed, the students take them to local businesses to ask if they can be displayed.
After the nominations have been received, the students must call the nominees to provide information about the program and the awards ceremony. That is not the favorite task of most of the students, but it is necessary.
“It always ends up a really good experience,” Johnson said, because they get to hear the surprise and joy in the recipient’s voice.
The students also create invitations for the ceremony that are sent to the nominees and the people that have nominated them.
At the ceremony, the students will read the names of the nominees, another task that is not very popular among the students, Johnson said. Some students will operate the Power Point presentation as well.
“They will all be down there in some capacity,” she said.
Last year, there was less student involvement because of the pandemic. School was not in session while the nominations were being solicited and received and when the ceremony should have taken place. Instead, Johnson went around to each nominee to present them the award and a video was posted on Facebook to publicize the program.
This year, Johnson will invite the 2020 winners to take part in the ceremony.
“So they can actually be recognized in person,” she said.
While there may be some changes because of the pandemic such as social distancing and wearing masks, the program will be similar to the one held in 2019, Johnson said. As the program continues to grow, she would eventually like to make the ceremony an evening banquet.
The deadline to nominate a person for the Hometown Heroes program was April 15, but Johnson has extended the date to Wednesday, April 20 to gain more nominations.
To nominate a Hometown Hero, email a letter to Johnson at email@example.com, mail the letter to Stacy Johnson, 1842 Furnas St., Ashland, NE 68003 or drop the letter off at the high school office.
The letter should include the first and last name of the hero, an explanation as to why they are a hero and your first and last name, phone number and email.